Chapter XV

Hoare found the journey back from Weymouth with the Horse Marines almost insupportable. He was weary, weary to the bone-from his struggle to save Jaggery, from the forced march to arrest Moreau, from his hard swim and the death in the surf at Portsmouth Bill, from the necessity of traveling nearly a hundred miles in company with Sir Thomas Frobisher. It was quite enough.

For no sooner had Sir Thomas got wind of Moreau’s death than he marched his miscellaneous men up to the Moreau quarry offices and obtained the surrender of the twelve leaderless Canadians who had not escaped to France on Marie Claire. With this victory to boast of, he elbowed Captain Jinks aside by claiming that, the Frenchmen also having been taken on Frobisher land, they were his prisoners. The journey to Portsmouth became a Frobisher parade, led by Frobishers men, with the Horse Marines bringing up the rear-and Bartholomew Hoare nowhere.

Delancey, the flag lieutenant, cut Hoare out from the troop and brought him, travel-worn and dusty, to his master.

Sir George ordered Hoare to summarize his transaction in Weymouth, chided him for having greatly exceeded his authority in abstracting Captain Jinks and his men, and-only when Hoare’s whisper broke down completely-mercifully released him with instructions to prepare a written report and deliver it to him within twenty-four hours.

In the Admiral’s anteroom, Hoare found Sir Thomas Frobisher, triumphant, purple, and goggling. The baronet glared and brushed past him on his way in to demand of Sir George the peerage he deserved for frustrating the Frogs’ latest knavish tricks.

Before leaving for the Swallowed Anchor, Hoare stopped to extort supplies from Mr. Patterson: ample paper, fresh-cut quills, and enough of Patterson’s finest India ink to carry him through this latest Herculean task. Patterson needed Hoare’s threats, pleading, and finally the promise of a bottle of the precious Madeira to release it all. He also persuaded Patterson to promise that when Hoare had finished he would have one of his clerks make a fair copy for Sir George’s eyes.

Sounds of disputation began to come through the door to Sir George’s sanctum. By the time Hoare left the anteroom, laden with his loot, they had risen to acrimonious shouts.

As he came out the door to the street, the voices of the two enraged knights rose to a roar, culminating with a thunderous croak from Sir Thomas: “Damn the Royal Navy, and damn you, too!”

Upon this, Hoare fled for home, bath, bird, and bottle.

The following morning, Hoare felt quite refreshed in body, but not in spirit. He did not look forward to putting his actions down on paper. The act had a sense of finality about it. Nonetheless, now finding all was in readiness, he was ready to begin.

First, however, he must move his parlor table to a particularly well lit part of the room. He doffed his uniform coat and hung it carefully on the back of the chair. He turned back his right sleeve.

Now, feeling perfectly comfortable, he was ready to begin. First, however, he needed to make sure his poor throat would not run dry in midvoyage. He slipped downstairs and had the pink girl Susan prepare a pitcher of her mild, soothing, lemon-flavored tisane. He chatted idly with little Jenny Jaggery as he waited for Susan to finish, sighed, and took the pitcher back upstairs. He placed the pitcher where it would be handy but not in the way of any sudden flourish of inspiration.

Now fully prepared, Hoare was ready to begin. He selected a pen, dipped it in Patterson’s ink, and wrote down the necessary prelude.

Portsmouth, 19 August 1805

Admiral Sir George Hardcastle, KB, Commanding at Portsmouth

Sir:

So far, so good. He paused in meditation, reread what he had written, then began to set down his next words. His stupid pen had dried out, and he must dip it again in Patterson’s precious ink before he could continue.

You have had the kindness to instruct me to prepare a report which you propose to forward to Their Lordships of the Admiralty. This report, you have directed, should include such of those events surrounding the recent sequestration of infernal machines on HM ships as cannot be substantiated and would therefore be of no value in court. In other words, I am to narrate what I believe to have happened, as well as what is known to have happened.

Hoare was properly under way now, all sails drawing. He went on to set forth the details of the case. He told of Morrow’s French-Canadian origin, his hatred of the English, and his recruitment as an agent of Bonaparte.

He described Morrow’s approach to Dr. Graves, the latter’s manufacture of clockwork for him in the belief that he was doing so for their use in His Majesty’s ships-as, of course, they were, — and the doctor’s growing suspicion of Morrow’s motives.

He informed the Admiral of how Morrow had sent two of his men-one Dugas and another-to abduct Mrs. Graves and hold her as surety against her husband’s obedience.

He reported how Morrow, with Jaggery’s assistance, had inserted the mechanisms into powder-packed ankers and used others such as the treasonous Kingsley to sequester them in vessels of the Navy. How Kingsley had had in his possession no less than three of the still-undeciphered messages from the person Jaggery had known only as “Himself.” That person, he suggested, was the same one spoken of by Morrow’s man Fortier as lui, the two terms being equivalent.

After a ten-minute period, which he took to stretch and pace about his parlor, Hoare now enumerated for his Admiral the individual deaths which must be laid at Moreau’s door- those of Kingsley and Dr. Graves, and perhaps that of Jaggery as well-although another must have smothered Moreau’s man Dugas. He pointed out that several matters must be of grave concern to the Navy. The one of most immediate urgency, he wrote, was the elimination of any armed ankers that remain unexploded.

The second major concern, however, as Hoare advised, was the unmasking of “Himself,” the anonymous figure who directed Morrow, Kingsley, and Jaggery and may well have an unknown number of other agents at his command. In Hoare’s opinion he was probably ‘Jehu,’ the author of the captured texts. “As long as a man of such caliber is at liberty, His Majesty’s Navy remains imperilled.”

Except for the proper closing courtesies, this concluded Hoare’s report to Admiral Hardcastle. Thereupon, he rested.

The next morning, Hoare bore his blotted masterpiece to Admiralty House, where he cajoled the Admiral’s rabbit into making a fair copy. This done, he signed it, sealed it, and ordered the rabbit to place it before their common master with all possible speed. Then he returned to the Swallowed Anchor to await the consequences. He whiled away the time by returning Inconceivable to a full state of readiness, having taken the liberty of keeping Bold and Stone at hand for a day or two beyond what was proper.

“Go find something to do somewhere else, Delancey, “Admiral Hardcastle said from behind his mountain of papers. “And close the door after you.

“Take a pew, Mr. Hoare. A glass of Madeira with you, sir. Pour me a glass, if you’d be so kind, and take one yourself. I’d like your opinion of it. I think you will find it a superior product. Your good health, sir, and a prosperous future to you,” he went on, raising his glass. “And the thanks of the Admiralty for having put a stop to that Frenchman’s capers.”

Hoare could have been tasting a wine from his own stock. At the second sip, his suspicions hardened. “Excuse me, Sir George, for asking,” he said, “but… where did you procure this nectar?”

“From Greenleaf, at the Bunch of Grapes,” the Admiral replied. He sounded a trifle smug. “I’ll warrant you’ve never stooped to a place like that. I was past there just yesterday. Hasn’t even settled properly yet.”

And that bastard Greenleaf swore he sold me the last of his stock, Hoare snarled to himself. I’ll have his guts for garters.

“Now, about the man Moreau’s nationality,” the Admiral continued, sailing on, all unconscious of Hoare’s outrage. “He was a Canadian, even if of French extraction, and therefore a British subject. He would have been hanged for treason.”

“Yes, sir,” Hoare said. “But he would have come to the same end in any case, would he not? Hanged for treason, or hanged for a spy?”

“Obviously, sir. Nonetheless, this puts a different complexion on things. We can’t have the nation looking over its shoulders for traitors in our midst, coming from lower Canada, or the Channel Islands, for that matter.

“No. Our people-all our people, whether English, Scottish, Irish, or Canadian-must be seen as loyal subjects of our poor mad Majesty. No. The man was a Frenchman, one of Boney’s deluded fools. I’ll have Delancey put that about. Delancey!” Sir George bellowed, and the flag lieutenant reappeared as if by magic.

“Good,” Sir George said. “I do like promptness in my officers.”

In a few paragraphs, he dictated an aide-m+еmoire to the Lords of the Admiralty in Whitehall, describing how Royal Navy forces had rooted out the French agents who had been responsible for the Portsmouth explosions but mentioning the names of neither ships nor men-nor the name of Thomas Frobisher, knight and baronet. He dismissed Delancey.

“Very good,” Sir George said. “That’ll quiet the damned scribblers. And give that self-important blatherskite Frobisher no comfort either.” He cast a sardonic eye over Hoare’s untidy garb. “You need a wife,” he stated. “Go and find one.”

Hoare could only nod, and Sir George continued.

“Your tale, Mr. Hoare, draws too heavily for belief upon the history of classical warfare. Crossbows, slings, and now ramming… I declare, I don’t know what the world is coming to. Fill our glasses again, sir.

“Ahem. Since you persist in acting in a classical mode: you accomplished your labors for ‘Eurystheus,’ young Heracles; even Talthybius the Dung Man-my clerk Patterson, that is- has had the impudence to say so. Furthermore, you apparently impressed Abercrombie’s man.”

“Abercrombie’s man, sir?”

“Yes.” The Admiral was commencing to sound restless. “Sir Hugh Abercrombie. He had somebody observing you, it seems, during that triumph of yours after the Vantage affair. You should remember; I certainly don’t. I wasn’t there. Besides, the less I know about Abercrombie’s people, the happier I am. I don’t care to be yellowed because I told secrets I shouldn’t have known.

“However, that is neither here nor there. What I can tell you is that Their Lordships of the Admiralty, in their infinite wisdom, have instructed me to order you into Royal Duke as master and commander when she makes Portsmouth from Chatham. I am pleased to obey Their Lordships, of course. Here are your preliminary warning orders. I understand she weighed for Spithead on Tuesday, under her present lieutenant. Your lieutenant, perhaps I should say. I took the liberty of keeping him in his post. I think you will not be displeased with my decision.”

“He is a man,” Sir George went on, “whose powerful voice more than balances his… well, you will see. In any case, you will be able to relay your orders through him. I’m surprised no one ever thought of that before. Pity; a promising naval career has been held back unnecessarily, in my opinion.”

“May I ask, sir, who…,” Hoare whispered.

“You may ask, sir, but you will receive no answer. I exercise my privilege of being irritating to my subordinates whenever I choose. Let you unveil the man yourself when you read yourself in. I drink to your health and continued good fortune, Captain Hoare.”

“Captain Hoare.” Bartholomew Hoare had never really hoped to hear that glorious prefix attached to his name. He glowed within.

Sir George, suiting his action to his words, waited until Hoare’s expected expressions of shock and joy ran down and then continued.

“Your appointment will not be gazetted yet, of course- not until you’ve read yourself in-or had Mr. What’s-his-name do it for you. But you may mount your swab as soon as it pleases you to do so. And, since I’ll wager you’re going to be rushing off to Weymouth anyway, you may as well take this copy of the Chronicle with you while you’re about it and read it to that widow who interests you so greatly. There’s a bit in it about her late husband.

“But steer clear of Frobisher, though, d’ye understand? I can’t have you in the same room with him. He’s too important in that part of the countryside, and in the House, for you to get embroiled with him. Understand?”

Hoare nodded his assent, whispered his heartfelt thanks, made his bow, and left to find the best tailor in the port. Later, he would invite his friends to help him wet his new swab. Tomorrow morning, he would rent an agreeable horse and betake himself to Weymouth. There was not a moment to lose.

When Hoare handed the article to her, Mrs. Graves read it silently. Then she looked up at him. “This is very gratifying indeed, Mr. Hoare,” she said. “I now apologize most abjectly for having misunderstood your intentions toward my late husband, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having cleared his good name. Ask me for any reward it is in my power to grant.”

Hoare had done this once before, in Halifax, at the feet of his sweet Canadienne. Nevertheless, he was trembling as he dropped to one knee.

“Mrs. Graves… Eleanor,” he began haltingly, “I have now reached a position in the service where my future is more certain than it was. And I already command a small but sufficient income. I wish to ask… to ask you if you could bring yourself to share that future.”

“Mr. Hoare,” she said, looking down at him with those piercing brown eyes. “Or perhaps I should say ‘Captain Hoare,’ if I remember my naval etiquette. Bartholomew. I am thirty-four years old and-to be blunt-still a virgin despite my widowed state. Are you so besotted as to think that, at my age, I would be able to accommodate the attentions of a man? That I would be, or could become, a suitable spouse for an active gentleman in the prime of life? That I could bear his children-yours, to be precise?

“Come, come, sir! I am a mundane woman, and I know it. I am not interested in a lark. No,” she went on. “I thank you, not only for your offer, but for the kindness which must have inspired you to make it. To be sure, my late husband’s lands go to his children. But you should know that poor Simon…” She seemed to choke, but continued, “When we were wed, Simon made over to me the jewels he gave me, his house and its furnishings, and his practice is mine to dispose of as I see fit. I shall not be thrown upon the town for my living. I have no children of my own for whom I am responsible. I shall be reasonably prosperous, in fact.”

“I do not make my proposal out of pity, Eleanor,” Hoare protested. “I make it out of admiration, high regard, and the deepest affection. I… I love you.”

“I wonder, Bartholomew,” she said gently, “if you recall the evening you spent with Simon, Miss Austen, Mr. Morrow-Moreau, I suppose I should call him-and myself…”

“Vividly.”

“Then you will remember my saying something like this: ‘I permit no one but my husband to listen to the music of my heart. It belongs to him.’ I meant those words then, Bartholomew, and I mean them still. Perhaps it is too soon after Simon’s death, but my heart is not yet mine to bestow.”

“Then I shall not withdraw my proposal,” Hoare whispered. “Your heart may not now be yours to bestow on a living man, but perhaps it will find its way back to you in due course. Meanwhile, you have the disposition of my own.”

Hoare could say no more. He bowed over Eleanor Graves’s hand, turned, and left her house. Once again, it was raining.

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